Indochina – Legacies of War

This series of photographs of the three countries of former French Indochina that became involved in the most tragic proxy war of the 20th century – Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia – marks the 25th anniversary of the fall, or liberation, of Saigon by the People’s Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong on April 30, 1975. It was compiled at a time when the fear of American casualties in the 1999 Kosovo War was supplying yet further proof of how much Vietnam – the war, the humiliation – still haunts the U.S.

While the wasteland created by relentless bombing along the Annamite Cordillera and on the Mekong and Red River deltas is green again and most of the debris has been recycled, children are being born into the second generation of victims of the war – the generation of those with cancer originating from Agent Orange’s toxic fallout. Thus they are casualties of a war they do not know. In Cambodia, after the UN-sponsored elections of 1993, mass defections, and the death in the maquis of Pol Pot in 1998, there is hope that the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders will be tried for genocide. Meanwhile, undetected landmines will most likely continue killing people in the impoverished countryside for years to come. In Laos, new socialist man clashes with free-market reforms, and the country’s dependence on foreign aid to develop its own resources, whilst on the Plain of Jars unexploded ordnance from the CIA’s covert air war still maims and kills children playing in the garden – gardens whose fences are often made out of the canisters of the very same cluster bombs which delivered the “bomblets” that even after so many years can still bring sudden death.

Reportages, complementing personal work, were commissioned and published by Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and Tages-Anzeiger Magazin Zürich.